Today marks a historic day for many female same-sex families who have been fighting to have both parents legally recognised. Up to now, only the parent deemed to be the biological parent could have a legal relationship to their child. Thanks to the enactment of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act (CFRA) 2015 on May 5th 2020, applications for declaration of parentage will be heard in the Dublin family courts today. What this means is that for some female same-sex families the parent currently not on the birth certificate, can now apply to be recognised legally.

LGBT Ireland welcomed this positive step towards recognising some of Irelands rainbow families, CEO Paula Fagan celebrated with the families who will make history today “This is a huge step forward for the LGBTI+ community, for the first time we will have access to birth certificates that recognise same sex parents. However, while we celebrate it is important to remember the majority of same sex families continue to find themselves in a precarious legal situation with regard to parental rights and we call on the new coalition Government to fast track the review to be undertaken by special rapporteur on child protection Conor O’Mahony into improved parental rights for LGBTI+ families.”

This moment represents one of the final steps to recognition for many same-sex parents who have been advocating for this legislation for several years. Anne Marie Whelan and her wife, Ailbhe O’Nolan, will be in court on this momentous day to apply for a declaration of parentage for Ailbhe in relation to their son, Finn. Ailbhe expressed her relief “Finn turned 1 a few weeks ago and being recognised very soon, means so much to us. It is something permanent, a formal declaration of what has been true from before he was ever born. It ends the feeling of being in limbo, of being the ‘non-parent’. We will no longer have to worry about who takes him for the remainder of his childhood vaccines. We will finally be able to get him a passport without one of us making a legal declaration that we are a sole parent to him. We will both have the assurance that we are, in every respect, his parents and that can no longer be denied to us as a family.”

Anne Marie and Ailbhe consider themselves lucky, however, as not all same-sex families are celebrating today. The Act sets out narrow criteria within which a non-biological parent will be recognised. This effectively excludes children born to male same-sex parents, those conceived via reciprocal IVF, conceived via at home insemination, conceived or born outside of Ireland, born via surrogacy or those who were born via anonymous donors. While this is an important step forward for those who have tirelessly fought for recognition, it is bittersweet that so many parents remain a legal stranger to their own children.

Gearóid Kenny and Séamus Moore are a married couple with two children born in 2018 via surrogacy outside of Ireland. They continue to advocate for legal recognition, but five years after the marriage equality referendum passed in Ireland, many children of LGBTI+ parents continue to suffer inequality. Gearoid and Seamus had hoped their family would be covered by the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill 2017, however, during meetings with the then Minister for Health Simon Harris, they were informed that this bill will not deliver the security these families so desperately need. Speaking today, Gearóid stated “the enactment of the CFRA 2015 does nothing for us, we are being left in limbo alongside many other LGBTI+ families.” Concerns raised include those of the rights of the child. While issues surrounding surrogacy and the many other conception methods that fall outside the remit of the CFRA 2015 and the AHR 2017 Bill go unaddressed, it is the children that are denied a right to a legal relationship with both parents.  LGBT Ireland and the advocacy group Equality for Children are calling for every child to be treated equally.

Image: Anne Marie Whelan, Ailbhe O’Nolan and their son, Finn.